Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has finally agreed not to run for a re-election… which means he’ll be out of office in seven months.
And the people of Egypt are not having it.
Hundreds of pro-government supporters attacked protesters Wednesday in Cairo’s central square, where thousands were pushing ahead with demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak supporters were out in the streets for the first time Wednesday in large numbers, with thousands demanding an end to the anti-government movement a day after the president went on national television and rejected demands for him to step down.
Those calling for Mubarak to go have been out in Cairo and many other cities for more than a week, and they drew by far their largest crowd on Tuesday when at least a quarter million packed the central Tahrir Square and the downtown area around it. Hundreds of thousands more have turned out in other cities across this nation of 80 million.
The confrontations began just hours after a military spokesman went on national television and asked the protesters to disperse so life in Egypt could go back to normal. During the clashes, soldiers and tanks who have been guarding the square did not appear to intervene.
Almost immediately after Mubarak announced late Tuesday night that he would serve out the remaining seven months of his term and would not leave the country, groups of Mubarak supporters rarely seen before in the week of anti-government protests took to the streets, some carrying knives and sticks.
In Alexandria, clashes erupted right after Mubarak’s address between the two sides.
The movement against Mubarak is fueled by deep frustration with an autocratic regime blamed for ignoring the needs of the poor and allowing corruption and official abuse to run rampant.
After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by unrest in Tunisia took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of protests across this nation of 80 million.
In his 10-minute address, Mubarak appeared somber but spoke firmly and without an air of defeat. He insisted that even if the protests demanding his ouster had never broken out, he would not have sought a sixth term in September.
He said he would serve out the rest of his term working “to accomplish the necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power.” He said he will carry out amendments to rules on presidential elections.
At this hour, the pro- vs. anti-government clashes continue in Tahrir Square in Cairo.